Prancing horse political power

Alfa Romeo’s return to Grand Prix racing after a thirty-year hiatus is undoubtedly good news for Formula 1.

Any initiative – especially if its manufacturer supported – which boosts the sport’s profile should be welcomed. But let’s be honest, the return of the legendary marque in partnership with Sauber is nothing more than Ferrari increasing  its involvement in Formula 1.

The House of Maranello now has a direct interest, technical or commercial, in two teams on the grid: Haas and Sauber, a move which underscore Ferrari’s broadening reach and power – of the political kind – at the top of the pyramid.

Interestingly, Sergio Marchionne reiterated on Saturday at the official launch of the Alfa Romeo-Sauber partnership his threat to quit Formula 1 should the sport move in a direction which he would perceive as counter to the Italian manufacturer’s interest.

Adding fuel to his warning, the Fiat-Chrysler boss said Alfa’s agreement with Sauber  is for three years  and expires in 2020-21, “right when Ferrari could leave,” he insisted.

And yet, many still doubt the seriousness of Marchionne’s threat, given the very high marketing importance of F1 for Ferrari’s brand and image. And last weekend’s announcement, despite the repeated danger, catered to the doubters arguments.

Indeed, why on earth would Ferrari increase its involvement and investment in the sport if there is an inherent risk of retreat on the horizon?

Red Bull’s Christian Horner won’t be fooled when it comes to Ferrari and Marchionne’s warnings.

“Alfa Romeo come under the same management as Sergio, so I can’t believe he’d have brought Alfa Romeo in for Ferrari to be leaving in a couple of years,” argues Horner.

“I think it demonstrates that Formula 1 is obviously working and creating the recognition. Otherwise the group wouldn’t have brought the Alfa brand into Formula 1.”

Perhaps Marchionne is taking a leaf out of Enzo Ferrari’s book on politics, planting a threat today to safe-guard against tomorrow’s possible adverse decisions by Formula 1’s management.

Phillip van Osten
Editor of